The exhibition industry declined 2 percent in 2010, marking the third straight year that the industry finished the year in negative territory, according to the CEIR Index, published by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, Dallas. The good news is that the slump may be over.

Three of the four metrics that CEIR tracks were down for the year. Revenues fell the sharpest, dropping 8 percent in 2010 compared to the previous year. The number of exhibiting companies fell 2 percent, while net square feet of exhibition space sold dropped 1 percent.

The bright spot was attendance, which jumped 2 percent in 2010 after falling nearly 8 percent in 2009. Historically, attendance numbers correlate with employment rates, so CEIR experts expect attendance to continue to rise in 2011 to mirror anticipated employment gains.

This is the first time since CEIR began tracking performance in 2000 that the industry has declined three straight years. In 2008 it dropped 2 percent and in 2009 it plummeted 10 percent.

Looking ahead, CEIR forecasts gains for the exhibition industry in all four metrics for each of the next three years, based on economic trends. Most of the 14 sectors that CEIR tracks are expected to show gains over this period, including the medical/healthcare sector. Only events in the education and government services sectors are projected to contract in the short term.

To purchase a full copy of the report, including an analysis of the 14 sectors of the economy that CEIR tracks, go to the CEIR Web site.